Motivating studentsToday, students are not always motivated by just talking about the reading assignment. In a literature unit, i.e., A Tale of Two Cities (or other any other literature unit) what...

Motivating students

Today, students are not always motivated by just talking about the reading assignment. In a literature unit, i.e., A Tale of Two Cities (or other any other literature unit) what special things do you use to keep the students' interest? For example, when I taught To Kill a Mockingbird, my students listened to an old sixties tune called "Walk a Mile in my Shoes." We sang along with the song.  Then I assigned groups and had them write a rap to the song's tune, which involved the characters and the story.  We had a competition to see who performed the best rap.  It was a blast!

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One thing that I liked to do with "Mockingbird" was to have the students write a newspaper. Someone could report about Tom Robinson's trial; another article on the Social Page could describe Aunt Alexandra's tea for the Missionary society; another article would report the snow; the fire at Miss Maudie's; rabies and Tim Johnson; the upcoming pageant to be held at the school; and, even Bob Ewell's "accidental" death, among other things. This is a great review, and writing exercise.

When we did a collection of stories from The Odyssey, I had the kids draw comic strips with stick figures, speech bubbles and captions. Extra points were given if students colored the pictures with colored pencils. Then they passed them around the room—another form of review.

For a unit test, I made up a Jeopardy! game, with a total of ten categories. In Hamlet, for example, you can use categories such as "Characters," "Do I Die?," "Plot," "Villains," "Heroes," "Victims," combinations of two (Villains/Victims, for example), etc. Five categories were set up as regular Jeopardy! Half way through class, I would switch to Double Jeopardy! I used the overhead and had reusable overhead transparencies: they were permanently printed (from my printer) with "dollar" amounts, but the subject area could be filled in and wiped off each time I used it. When a question had been asked, it was crossed off on the transparency with an overhead marker. I bought a Hands-Down game (by Milton Bradley), and used the "hands" with four groups. If all four students answered, they were asked to keep their hands on the "game-hands" so I could see who was first. If the first person could not answer it, it would go to the second student and so on. Students were not required to answer in the form of the question. Teams did not lose points for wrong answers, but only earned points with correct answers. With five minutes left in the class, I would review any questions we did not get to. Not all questions would be on the test, but all test questions were included in the game. The kids always love Jeopardy days.!

mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I love all the creative ideas above; what great suggestions for you to try.  When my honors group did the Harlem Renaissance, I introduced the unit by playing Billie Holiday's version of "Strange Fruit"  which the students then discussed.  When they understood the song, the whole room grew quiet. Then I had them do some quick readings by groups to present to the class about what the Harlem Renaissance was and famous names who participated.  The groups presented the information to the rest of the class listing  musician, artist, poet, speaker, writer etc. on the whiteboard.  The names of people to choose from were listed under the appropriate title.  Groups were composed of one of each kind and disputes settled with rock,paper, scissors if the students could not come to agreement themselves.   Presenting their information was up to them to choose, and everything from debates to pop-up books to power points were used. I found the research involved was far more intriguing to them and carried into even the lunchroom.  Music from that era was played while they worked which also helped as many had talked to parents about the assignment and recognized names and/or music.  The whole unit was far more fun and educational doing it this way than if I had done a presentation for them. 

belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While I've never been a teacher (I taught martial arts for a long time, but that's not quite the same) I have been a student many times, and the things that motivated me were usually the same: the teacher took an active role in the education process, giving me ways to absorb the information beyond memorization and regurgitation. While there are literally thousands of teaching methods, I think the one that works best is finding what about the subject really appeals to the student; how does the student connect with the material on a level deeper than "I need to get a C+ to pass."

One thing that always helped me was presentations; with a stake in impressing the teacher, the class, and the pretty girl in the front row, I spent many hours putting together insightful and informative presentations, and as a result I understood the material much better than just listening to the lectures. It also improved my ability to speak in front of others and be sociable. I think that short, limited presentations in which the student is motivated to impress others rather than just getting by can be very useful.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great activity - and a perfect illustration of the answer to your question. Students become motivated when the topic becomes relevant to them and they become involved in working with it. You found a song that related to the theme of the story, helped them make it their own by having them sing along, and then gave them an assignment that involved demonstrating their understanding of the characters and story in a way that was creative, personalized, competitive without being over-the-top - I guarantee those students will remember the entire unit for the rest of their lives!

I tried to follow many of the same strategies when I was teaching. Tapping into (or creating) personal interest is always instant motivation. Incorporating creativity adds a fun factor. I'm sure there was lots of laughter and applause during the competition. Group work gives everyone support and reduces fear of failure. Go through this list - - and look at how many of these ideas you included! Congratulations - keep it up!

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That's a great activity.  I usually tried to include at least one special project or activity with each assignment.  Usually, we had several of these activities or one on-going activity with a longer work.  For example, we created a family tree as we read Romeo and Juliet.  Students cut branches, leaves, and a trunk from construction paper.  As we read the story, they had to add on to their family tree.  Then, I would ask them to fill in details about each character on the back of that character's leaf.  This gave them something to be engaged in and it also provided them a reference while reading.  Some of my projects were far more in-depth.  With my honors group, we often held mock trials.  We put Othello, Frankenstien's monster, and several other major characters on trial for their crimes.  I would even video tape the proceedings and we would watch them after the test.  We have also tried game shows, remaking a particular scene and acting it out, or various art projects.  I find the students are far more interested when they have a create project to associate with the work.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In most regular classes (as opposed to honors and AP) students aren't terribly into reading. It sounds like you had a great assignment for To Kill a Mockingbird.

One thing I like to do, when possible, is include video (movies or clips) to supplement the reading. The majority of students enjoy and relate to video more readily than the written word. Sometimes just watching video helps them lock into the reading to a greater degree.

Also, anthing you can do to relate the work to their own lives will help hook some students.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that sometimes students need to know some historical background before fully appreciating a book.  If a lot of background is needed, kids will feel more confident about the book.  They will also understand it much better when they know more ahead of time.

udayanga | Student

Motivating students is an essential need to learning environment to keep students effectiveness and efficiency at the classroom.keep students in the motivation process at the class room needs unique and new motivational mechanism than traditional motivation.thus give them to experience become motivated students....

macandcheese99 | Student


Always works for me.

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